Derbyshire Police Federation

Derbyshire team up for Bravery Award following horrific football violence

15 May 2024

An experienced Derbyshire Police inspector says he’s humbled his team has been nominated for a national bravery award after policing the worst public order violence he has seen in his career.

Inspector Nick Booth described how the officers were faced with serious disorder ahead of Aston Villa’s home European game with Legia Warsaw.

Nick, a Derbyshire Police Federation member, has worked in public order for more than 20 years and is a public order trainer.

He said: “In the run-up, the commander who gave us the briefing warned this could be the worst violence we’ve seen in our careers – and he wasn’t wrong.”

Nick was working alongside Derbyshire Police colleagues PC Ryan McGrath, PC Christopher Harrold, PC Tammy Careless, PC Adam Podam, PC Rebecca Callan, PC Matthew Copestake and an officer who doesn't want to be named.

Deployed on mutual aid, they were working closely with colleagues from Nottinghamshire and West Midlands when they came under a sustained assault close to Villa Park stadium in Birmingham in November.


Officers were attacked with all sorts of objects during the violence
(picture not from specific incident).


The officers were attacked with flares and missiles, including bottles, bricks and hammers. They were even attacked with street signs and tree branches.

Nick said: “Initially, we were in a close cordon blocking off a road and preventing the Warsaw fans mixing with the Aston Villa fans, who were legitimately going to the ground.

“They started masking up, pulling on face coverings, putting their hoods up, scarves around their heads, and it was at that point we realised it was going to start to get a bit tasty.

“And then the missiles started coming down.

“They were throwing the flares at us, throwing bricks, bottles, street signs, cones, anything they could get their hands on.

“There were some small sheds nearby and they were ripping the doors off and they were being thrown at us.

“They were going through the sheds for anything they could find. Hammers were being thrown.

“They were using sticks and branches as weapons and smashing the shields.”

Nick said at least two of his colleagues’ shields splintered under the ferocious assault.

Indeed, PC Copestake received an injury to his hand due to the level of violence directed at his shield which required hospital treatment, but has since recovered.

“That’s the most sustained violence I’ve ever encountered,” Nick said.

“From when they started throwing the missiles and flares until we managed to push them down some streets so there was less sustained pressure, it was about 45 minutes.

“It doesn’t sound a lot but when you’re getting it constantly for that time it is.”



Now the Derbyshire Police officers have been nominated for a Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) Bravery Award.

Nick said: “It’s really humbling. At the time you don’t think anything about it, you’re dealing with your public order duties as you do normally.

“When we went out that night, we weren’t expecting anything like it and after the event, we came away thinking we did a good job there.

“There were a lot of other officers there from other forces and everyone did a brilliant job. We were just one small part of a big team who performed brilliantly on the night, so to be nominated was completely out of the blue.

“It’s really humbling and a privilege to be thought of that way.”

Chief Superintendent Steve Wilson, of Derbyshire Police, said: “This mutual aid deployment differs considerably from almost all that have gone before in terms of the levels of violence intentionally directed at the police by a very large group of foreign national risk supporters armed with potentially lethal weapons.

“The bravery of officers was clearly critical in successfully preventing the aggressive and determined hostile crowd from reaching the local fans, thus potentially preventing further serious injury and disorder.

“The disorder was so intense and widespread that it attracted national and international media reporting the following day, with harrowing images of what the officers were faced with.

“Inspector Nick Booth, the serial commander, is a very experienced public officer with more than 20 years in the role and describes this as the worst violence he has ever seen.

“He provides a disturbing first-hand account of the hostile group, identically dressed akin to a uniform, with livery in the form of badges, being organised, disciplined with clear leadership to achieve their aim of attacking the police.”

Organised by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), this year’s National Police Bravery Awards will be taking place on 11 July, in London.

READ MORE: Get active this May - national walking month.


July 2024